The past couple of years has come with a lot of unpredictability. Businesses have had to act on their toes to adjust to the ever-changing landscape of the B2B trade.
Fortunately, we’re reaching a point with a bit more stability. This is great for B2B trade because it makes it so much easier to identify trends and plan accordingly.
Today, we will review the findings in Alibaba.com Digital B2B Outlook 2022. We’ll take a close look at outlooks for Europe, the United States, Pakistan, and Vietnam. From there, we will review some trends and opportunities in online B2B trade in 2022.
To wrap things up, we will discuss how to create a digital B2B strategy in 2022.
Table of Contents
Even though the pandemic is beginning to subside, digitalization continues to remain important in 2022. Travel is less restricted and in-person meetings have started to resume, but the value of online business operation remains very important.
During the pandemic, e-commerce grew by 5x. The e-commerce market grew by 11% in Q3 of 2021 alone. The continued growth throughout the end of last year, even when in-person interactions were deemed safer.1
Let’s take some time now to recap some specific outlooks in online B2B trade for a few key countries and regions.
Please note that these four represent just a few of the reports that we’ve conducted. Check out our Outlook page for additional forthcoming reports.
E-commerce continues to rise in Europe after a significant growth spurt between 2020 and 2021. While the growth has slowed down significantly, the trends toward e-commerce are still positive.
A study on business travel in Europe concluded that business travel dropped significantly between 2019 and 2020, which is reasonable considering COVID-19 related lockdowns and travel restrictions. Even as borders began to open and travel became less restricted in 2021, travel for business never bounced back to where it was before.2
This further exemplifies the effectiveness of e-commerce. The need to travel has remained low since online business operations are sufficient. It is reasonable to expect that the results of these studies in Europe could extend throughout other parts of the world.
Currently, some of the top exports from Europe include coffee, beer, whiskey, sweets, pasta, apparel, machinery, and beauty products.
Small business optimism in the United States is finally stabilizing after a rocky two years. At this point, however, the United States is experiencing inflation. Prices are rising quickly which is cutting into profit margins and causing a bit of uncertainty.3
One positive note on the outlook of B2B trade in the United States is that digitalization and globalization are on the rise. In fact, the vast majority of SMEs in the United States reported that e-commerce was a saving grace for their businesses throughout the pandemic.4
A few common goals amongst American sellers for 2022 include community building, scaling, and global expansion.
Some of the top categories of demanded exports from the United States include food and beverage, agriculture, beauty, personal care, health and medical, and consumer electronics.
Like other countries, Vietnam has experienced some trouble at the hands of the pandemic. Despite the troubles, the country has a positive outlook in terms of exports and B2B trade for the next year.
Last year, Vietnam had an export surplus of US $255 million. That is a positive sign for the health of the Vietnamese economy.5
This success aligns with the boost in e-commerce in Vietnam. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the country has seen a 52% decrease in traditional or in-person business interactions. This coincides with a 41% increase in sales via video chat and a 23% increase in sales via other online chat channels. Online exporting from Vietnam as a whole has grown consistently since 2014, with slightly expedited growth since the start of the pandemic.6
The top export sectors in Vietnam currently include agriculture, beauty and personal care, and home and garden.
Like many countries, Pakistan experienced significant economic decline throughout the pandemic. Ports were congested, which led to disruption in exporting. However, things in Pakistan are getting back on track.
SMEs make up nearly a third of Pakistan’s economy, and these businesses contribute to a quarter of the nation’s exports.7
Currently, a push toward growth in the export sector is creating opportunities for Pakistani SMEs that are able to serve the demand for both manufactured goods and raw materials in the international market. This shift comes with a greater demand for higher-quality products, as opposed to the low-quality products that may have been.
In terms of digitalization, there is lots of room for growth for online B2B trade in Pakistan. Experts expect the consistent growth of e-commerce in this country.
Some of the key Pakistani exports for this coming year include non-knit women’s suits, house linens, and non-retail cotton yarn.
Before we get into some more actionable opportunities in e-commerce, let’s take a moment to recognize a few major trends that are creating opportunities for this coming year.
E-commerce has become popular in the B2C sector for several years now. However, during the pandemic, there was a major shift in the way that B2B trade was conducted.
Because of travel restrictions and limited in-person interactions, it became difficult to close deals face-to-face. Online buying became key so that deals could be facilitated remotely.
The societal shifts of the pandemic can be seen on a global level. The way that people spend money has changed as a result of being stuck at home and limited on travel, and with this comes an increase in demand.8
Last year, there were significant supply chain shortages that held up trade in many industries. However, these issues are actively being resolved, and experts believe that the resolution of these issues will contribute to greater growth.
In the event that the supply chain shortages are not completely resolved this year, SMEs are better prepared to navigate these issues after dealing with them for such a significant period.
Considering the trends laid out in the Digital B2B Outlook, there are plenty of opportunities in B2B e-commerce this year.
Aside from the country-specific products we discussed above, here are a few hot markets that are full of opportunities for B2B sellers this year.
For starters, the energy sector has seen significant growth. Although producing and selling different types of energy is difficult, it is possible to jump on this opportunity by selling accessories and equipment to aid energy producers.
For example, you could sell barrels to oil companies. Another option is to sell a specific tool or piece of equipment for energy generation or mining. You can get creative to serve the companies that are powering the world and make a nice chunk of change in the process.
The global demand for metals and minerals has grown significantly since the start of the pandemic, creating opportunities for those with the resources to mine them. Like energy, there are opportunities for those who can provide accessories or tools for mining metals and minerals, as well.
To put the opportunity into perspective, the metal sector grew by 46% and the mineral sector grew by 48% from the start of the pandemic until now.9
The way that people work has changed throughout the pandemic. Businesses shifted to remote work for part of the pandemic, but many are coming back into the office. Some businesses downsized their offices, and others used the flexible remote work schedules to remodel their offices.
These shifts and improvements are reflected in the 31% growth of the office equipment sector.10
Naturally, the global health crisis has led to a 33% growth in the pharmaceutical industry. Materials used for both treatments and prevention have been hot commodities.11
There is plenty of opportunity in the pharmaceutical space as the world remains aware of health issues and healthcare remains important to people around the world.
With the insights shared in the Alibaba.com Digital B2B Outlook report, it is apparent that taking a digital approach to B2B trade is more important than ever.
Here are a few actions to incorporate as you create your digital B2B strategies for 2022.
The most important step in creating a digital B2B strategy is assessing your current situation. Whether your business is entirely brick-and-mortar or you’re currently selling via an online storefront, there is likely room for improvement.
Think about what is working with your current strategy and how it can be supplemented with digital tools or an enhanced online presence. Take some time to reflect on the following questions:
If you don’t conduct a realistic assessment of where you’re starting, it is difficult to see where you’re going.
If you are not already using one, we recommend leveraging the support of an online B2B marketplace. Creating a storefront on a B2B marketplace can reinforce your efforts in your brick-and-mortar store or the storefront on your business’s website.
An online B2B marketplace, like Alibaba.com, can help to increase traffic to your offers from potential buyers. Alibaba.com, for example, uses an internal search engine that lets prospective buyers search for products that they’d like to source.
When you optimize your listings with the search engine in mind, it is easier to reach more buyers.
If you’re engaging in online B2B trading, it only makes sense to tap into digital marketing to expand your business’s reach.
Some of the most valuable digital marketing techniques for B2B trade include:
What’s nice about digital marketing is that it is flexible and many of the techniques are low cost. This gives B2B sellers room to experiment and create the strategy that works for their unique offers and target audience.
A solid sales pipeline is crucial to maintaining your business. With the shift towards online B2B buying and selling, it is wise to supplement your sales pipeline with digital tools to keep your efforts consistent across the board.
Optimize your digital sales funnels to obtain and retain the right leads. From there, use digital methods to nurture those leads to and beyond the sale.
Some B2B e-commerce platforms, such as Aliabab.com, support communication management. However, many sellers take it a step further with dedicated sales pipeline management software.
Virtual tradeshows have become quite popular over the past couple of years since travel and in-person events were limited. What’s nice about virtual tradeshows is that it allows buyers and sellers from around the world to come together and do business.
As a seller, you can participate in virtual tradeshows to make connections with new buyers.
It is worth noting that virtual tradeshows are unlikely to fully replace their in-person alternatives. While modern technology has come leaps and bounds in terms of creating a lifelike experience for participants, some things are difficult to replicate.
For example, it’s possible to get a close-up look at products during virtual tradeshows, but it is still impossible for prospective buyers to hold the products to feel the materials and observe the quality. Of course, samples can help to remedy this problem, but the connection is less instantaneous than it would be with in-person interactions.
B2B sellers have a lot to consider in the coming year. Online trade is increasing accessibility and expanding opportunities for buyers and sellers around the world.
Alibaba.com is proud to be part of this global growth and the widespread shift towards digitalization in B2B trade. That’s why we stay on top of industry trends and developments to keep you in the loop.
Want to know more about the topics we’ve covered in this post? Get industry-leading analysis and business advice to bring your online B2B trade to a new level.
2. Euromotor International
3. Trading Economics
4. Salesforce’s “Small and Medium Business Trends”